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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Dec 6, 2012 - 8:23 AM


Irish Budget 2013: Reactions to tax, property and pensions measures
By Finfacts Team
Dec 5, 2012 - 5:48 PM

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Michael Noonan, minister for finance, with CDs of Budget 2013 at Government Buildings today

Irish Budget 2013: The reactions to tax, property and pensions measures in today's Budget from industry and professional groups.

Irish Budget 2013 Page

Property

The introduction of a property tax holiday until 2016 for first time buyers and those who purchase new or unoccupied homes is welcome but it won’t have a positive impact on the residential property sector, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). According to the CIF the measure removes a hurdle from people interesting in entering the residential market for the first time, but it will not have a measurable effect on the industry at large.

“We are glad that the Government has made some adjustment to the property tax and put in place a measure that will ease the way for people who are considering entering the residential market,” said CIF director general Tom Parlon. “However the reality is that if the Government is interested in getting the residential property market moving in a positive direction this won’t make a major difference.

“If the Government wants to see positive movement in the residential market then they need to address more of the underlying issues. They need to ensure the banks are providing mortgages to people who are applying and can afford a mortgage payment. They need to help breed confidence in the market so that we can see a more steady position in residential property prices.

“There also have to be measures introduced that will recognise the distinct difference between the various markets that are in place around the country. The residential markets in Dublin, Cork and Galway are recovering quicker than in the more rural parts of the country. This trend is being replicated in other urban areas too. The Government’s residential property market strategy needs to take this reality into account if we are to see the market recover on a sustained basis,” Parlon concluded.

Property Industry Ireland (PII) acknowledges that Budget 2013 contains some positive measures for the sector and, most importantly, brings certainty to areas such as the level of the local property tax and the treatment of rental income.

Finola McDonnell, director, Property Industry Ireland (PII), said: "While PII argued strongly that the property tax should be payable by occupants rather than property owners, the rates applying at 0.18% and 0.25% of market value for properties worth less than €1m and over €1m respectively should not dampen transaction levels considerably in coming months.

PII welcomes the exemption from property tax of those purchasing new or previously unoccupied stock up to end 2016. However this will not counteract to any major extent the ending of mortgage interest relief.

Most welcome is Minister Noonan's commitment to provide for the establishment in Ireland of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), a widely used funding mechanism for property investment. PII has argued strongly that REITs would attract international investment into Irish property at a time when it is most needed and signal the internationalisation of the sector to significant investors worldwide.

The main challenge posed for property by this Budget is the extension of PRSI to unearned income, including rental income, from 2014. This will deter investors in the buy-to-let market and, in conjunction with the property tax, increase the costs to landlords significantly."

Lisney chartered surveyors made a number of observations on Budget 2013. In particular, Lisney is critical of the basis of taxation adopted in relation to the residential property tax. They acknowledge the difficult position the Government is in and accept that an annual property tax must be introduced. However, they disagree with the value approach adopted. In particular, Lisney believe that it is wrong not to take into consideration those who paid large amounts of stamp duty in the past, not to zero rate stamp duty (or at least make it a nominal €100 charge), and not to make the occupier of the property liable (rather than the landlord).

According to James Nugent, managing director of Lisney, “Lisney has always been generally supportive of a recurrent property tax but for this to be put in place, other considerations must be made. We believe that it is a mistake and totally unfair to have a system based only on the value of a property with no other considerations.

Based just on value, homeowners in large urban areas, particularly Dublin, will have to pay considerably more than those in the rest of the country. This is unfair given that homeowners in Dublin cost their local authority less (per residential unit) because providing mass services is more economical than providing facilities and amenities over a wider and scattered geographical area. Historically, Dublin homeowners paid the highest prices for their property and consequently the largest stamp duty. In addition, Dublin homeowners have the biggest mortgages and sadly the highest levels of negative equity. According to the ESRI, a tax based just on value will mean that the share of tax Dublin will have to bear will be proportionately higher than Dublin’s share of the population and its share of income and income tax.

We believe that it makes much more sense to have a system that combines both value and size (i.e. the liability is adjusted depending on the size of the property) or a site value tax so that those in higher value but smaller homes in urban areas are not overly penalised. In relation to the former, we have done a lot of work on this type of system that is more balanced, the details of which are available on our web site .

In addition, it seems illogical not to make allowances for people who paid massive amounts in stamp duty over the past decade. Most homeowners have paid tens of thousands of euro in property tax in the recent past and they should get the present value of this money deducted from their liability over the next couple of years. In addition, it is also regrettable that means tested deferrals have not been put in place for the elderly.

With investment property, it is very unfortunate that landlords will be hit with yet another tax. In the last few years, they have had to contend with the NPPR €200 charge, increased rates for complying with the PRTB, 75% limit on mortgage interest relief and rental income being subject to PRSI from 2013. We are firmly of the view that occupiers should pay as is the case in the UK (called council tax) and with the Irish commercial rates system. This tax, combined with rental income falling into the PRSI net from next year will push many landlords into further distress and will led to repossessions. This will further deplete an already inadequate stock of rental accommodation, particularly in cities. Given the Government’s clear desire to continue to seek FDI, this could be a particular problem for international worker who generally prefer to rent, and could led to international companies choosing alternative European locations.

In relation to the NPPR change it is positive that this will be abolished from 2014, however we believe this should have been abolished immediately as it will act as double taxation in the second half of 2013.

On a positive note, it is good that the upper 0.25% rate is only applicable on the balance above €1m rather than on the full value of the property. However, we believe this €1m threshold should be increased to at least €2m. It is also welcome that certainty is provided to homeowners for the next three and a half years and the value base will be fixed until 2016 as will the rates.

Given that mortgage interest relief was not extended, it is helpful that first time buyers will be exempt from the property tax for four years if they buy in 2013. It is also beneficial for the property market generally, and in getting a resolution to unfinished estates / vacant units, that units not previously occupied will be exempt from the tax until 2016 for any purchaser of these properties. However, with both of these measures, we believe that it would have been better to extend the exemption to all purchasers of all types of properties. In our view, the needs of the developers (who own new units) does not outweigh the needs of the distressed investors or owner-occupiers (who own second-hand units), and similarly, mover purchaser and investors should be treated the same as first time buyers.

In relation to the commercial sector of the market, Lisney welcomes the introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s). REIT’s are publically traded property companies, where the majority of the assets of the company are income producing real estate assets. This will provide liquidity to the market and will allow investors participate in areas of the property market that they would not traditionally have had the opportunity to enter, i.e. it will allow them invest small sums of money in large-scale commercial properties. Given the relatively small size of the Irish market, it is likely that there will only be a limited number of REIT’s established, perhaps two or three. It is positive that this is being introduced at a time when property values are low. This is contrary to the situation in UK when they were introduced at the height of the market in 2007 and suffered large losses within a short period of time due to the falls in property values. REIT’s are also positive from the point of view that they will provide a new source of funding for property companies. A return of a listed property sector is to be welcomed, the added benefit of no taxation at company level is good news for the investor.”

Pensions

The Government’s widely anticipated decision to introduce a cap of €60,000 on the annual pension that can be provided from approved pension arrangements will have implications for over 27,000 employees from 2014. The penalty for exceeding the cap is a 41% charge on the excess value, on top of paying income and USC on pension, giving a net effective tax rate of nearly 70%.

Employees who might be affected by the lower cap in the future are going to have to plan their pension saving more carefully. Michael Madden, partner, Mercer said “the need for members to manage the right combination of pension and savings over time – throughout their working lives, into retirement and beyond – has never been more important. Employers who demonstrate flexibility and can deliver solutions which are tax and cost neutral will have created a significant retention tool for employees”.

This measure is also likely be a deterrent to highly paid executives working on global assignments within the multi national sector choosing to work here. Senior public servants are heavily impacted by the pensions cap and are unlikely to have the flexibility that employees in the private sector may have. Senior public servants may have to use up to half of their tax-free lump sum on retirement to pay any excess tax due to the pensions cap.

Confirmation that full tax relief on pension contributions will continue to be provided will come as a relief to all pension savers and will help to ensure people will continue to provide for their retirement. The announcement that 30% of Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) can be accessed is a positive development that will assist individuals with immediate financial difficulties. In addition, this measure will also be used as a planning tool by individuals who will reach the €60k cap. It will also get much needed funds into the economy.

Since 2005 there have been ongoing changes to pensions by Government. Today’s confirmation that the pension levy will stop in 2014 provides much needed certainty.

The lead in time of a year for the introduction of the €60k pensions cap is to be welcomed. In terms of implementation it is essential that the pensions cap should be increased in line with an earnings index in the future. This was provided for when the original cap of €5m was introduced in 2005 and was applied for a few years before the cap was reduced to €2.3m, but there has been no indexation of the cap since. A crucial detail will be the multiplier used to decide what fund a member of a defined contribution scheme or a self employed person can have. For example a multiplier of 20 would allow a fund of €1.2 million which is well below the actual cost of purchasing a pension of €60,000.

Irish Budget 2013 Page

Ernst & Young

Jarlath O’Keefe, partner Indirect Tax Services comments on Excise Duty

"The increase in the excise duty rate on tobacco will add 10 cent to the price of a packet of cigarettes, which will be welcomed by health lobby groups. It may have pushed for a more significant increase, but the Minister pointed out that this could result in a greater number of consumers purchasing cigarettes on the black market, thus reducing the overall tax take."

"Publicans will have balked at the increase in the excise duty on alcohol products and will likely argue that a 10 cent increase on a pint of beer allied to a 10 cent rise on a measure of spirits will impact on their efforts to maintain current job levels in the sector."

Jarlath O’Keefe, partner Indirect Tax Services comments on Reduction of VAT on Construction

“Introducing a reduction in the rate of VAT on construction services could have stimulated activity in the labour intensive home improvement sector. This, in tandem with an investment programme designed to tackle broadband or energy-related infrastructure projects could have led to the creation of long-term sustainable employment in this sector. As it stands, the share of construction employment in Ireland is below the pre-boom average of 7.5%."

Ian Collins, director, R&D Tax Services comments on doubling R&D relief

"Doubling the first €100,000 eligibility for Research and Development (R&D) relief can be viewed as a positive move designed to increase innovation and expansion, particularly amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

However, it is unfortunate that the Minister did not look to improve the Irish regime by increasing the flexibility of the employee incentive scheme and making alterations to the regime for sub-contracted activity.

There is a danger that the small changes proposed will do little to improve Irish competiveness as our international competitors make far more significant enhancements to theirs."

John Heffernan, tax partner, Ernst & Young comments on comments on Property Tax

“Middle income householders will feel the bite of the property tax more sharply than the Minister indicated. The half-year charge on a property in the €150,000-200,000 band will amount to €157, rising to €315 once the tax is applied for a full year in 2013. Properties in the €300,000-350,000 band will face a full-year charge of €585. Opting for a site value tax would have resulted in a lower charge of around €200 per annum for the majority of homeowners".

“While the local property tax was signalled in advance, the fact that local authorities have the right to vary the charge by up to 15% in either direction from 2015 come as something of a surprise".

“The exemption from the new local property tax will be applied on any new or previously unoccupied property from 2016. Any first-time buyers of any home, either new or second-hand, will also qualify for this exemption. These measures, coupled with the voluntary deferral position for those with low disposable incomes will reduce the yield from the new tax.”

John Heffernan, tax partner, Ernst & Young comments on comments on Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT's)

“The introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) allied with €2billion of NAMA vendor finance is an extremely positive development and will help underpin the recovery of the Irish commercial real estate market. The country has previously been disadvantaged when attempting to attract foreign investment in real estate as investment in the sector, via REITs, was not facilitated as was the case in other economies including the US, UK, France and Germany.”

"While the full details of the Minister’s proposals for an Irish REIT have not yet been published, it is hoped that an Irish REIT will have the following key characteristics:

  • A REIT should be fully transparent for tax purposes so that the REIT will not have any exposure to Irish Corporation on income and capital gains;
  • A REIT should attract experienced fund managers with global reputations to set up REITs for Irish real estate investment thereby opening up the Irish market to foreign investment in a way that hasn’t;
  • The regulatory requirements should be fair and reasonable and in line with those applicable in other developed jurisdictions;
  • An Irish REIT should be allowed raise funds in a number of ways including direct equity investment from investors together with access to loan finance;
  • he minimum investment size for the establishment of an Irish REIT should take account of the scale of the Irish market.
  • There should be a trading market for shares or units in an Irish REIT so that investors can have a degree of liquidity for their investment".

John Heffernan, tax partner, Ernst & Young comments on comments on CGT and Inheritance Tax

“The immediate increase in the rate of Capital Gains Tax ("CGT") and Gift Inheritance Tax from 30 to 33% was one of the Budget’s few surprises. By contrast, the rate of CGT in the US currently sits at between 0 and 20% for long-term capital gains while the UK offers a low rate of 10% for entrepreneurs, meaning today’s announcement has the potential to hinder genuine economic investment.”

John Heffernan, tax partner, Ernst & Young comments on the Ministers reference to funding available from Nama

"The Minister also referred to the funding available from NAMA. NAMA is already making €2 billion of funding available over the next four years to complete residential and commercial projects in Ireland. The Minister confirmed that this investment is already underway with some €650 million of advances already approved and is expected to create significant employment in the region of 25,000 jobs in the construction sector and additional jobs in the wider economy. The Minister also announced that NAMA is making €2 billion of vendor finance available to perspective purchasers of commercial properties over the same period.

While the Minister has not made any projection for the level of investment that might be attracted into Irish real estate, given the level of vendor finance that NAMA is prepared to make available together with the opportunity to introduce new foreign investors to the Irish market via REITs, there are reasonable grounds for optimism for a recovery in the Irish commercial real estate market."

Kevin McLoughlin, partner and head of tax, Ernst & Young comments on budget 2013

“Signalling future tax-raising measures (2013 and 2014) brings an element of predictability during a period of uncertainty, presumably with the aim of encouraging spending and investment.

Competitiveness

“Unfortunately, compared to last year’s Budget, there was no explicit comment on how the Government will maintain and continue to attract international business to Ireland by enhancing its tax competitiveness. That would suggest that the assumption is that the current 12.5% rate is sufficient to maintain and attract foreign direct investment to support a growing export economy.

“In fact, competition on the tax front internationally is particularly acute at present and it is disappointing that the Minister did not commit to enhancements that ensure the country remains a primary location for companies considering investment.

Excise duty

“Excise duties on fuel and carbon taxes on energy have represented a significant increase on costs to companies in recent years, so today’s freeze will be widely welcomed by the business community.”

Deloitte

The Minister for Finance has announced today the introduction of legislation to allow for the establishment of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS).

The proposal is welcomed as such vehicles are internationally recognised and should facilitate investment from non-resident institutional, private equity and pension groups in Irish commercial property. REITs are an established vehicle in the likes of the UK and the US.

Commenting, Padraic Whelan, head of Real Estate & Infrastructure, Deloitte, said: “It has been an open secret that dozens of potential investors are sitting on the sidelines waiting to pounce on Irish property assets. These measures on REITS proposed today will bring Ireland into line with international standards. It will make it easier for those investors who wish to buy into a portfolio of properties to do so and should help stimulate a recovery in the commercial property market.”

In a welcome development, the Minister has confirmed that tax relief on individual pension contributions for those who are attempting to provide for a pension of up to €60,000pa, will remain in place at the marginal rate. This is fundamentally important as further curtailment in tax relief on pension savings would undermine the rationale and necessary trust in the wider retirement savings system.

The widely anticipated quid pro quo for this will be the reduction in an individual’s ability to build up larger pension pots within a tax effective structure. The Minister announced that arrangements would be made to modify the current Standard Fund Threshold (SFT) of €2.3 million in a manner to implement a €60,000 tax effective cap on pensions, with effect from 1st January 2014.

Commenting, Patrick Cosgrave, director of Pensions, Deloitte, said: “In overall terms, the changes are probably the least bad outcome from what had been signalled as being a tough budget for pensions and there may be a collective sigh of relief. There has also been an attempt to apply some level of balance between those who already are benefitting from large pensions and the working population who are in the process of trying to build up their own pension provision in challenging times. Particularly important was the statement that the Pension Levy will not be extended beyond 2014 and, most importantly, that the fiscal incentives that support retirement saving remain in place for the vast majority of the working population.”

The reduction in tax effective pension pots will affect higher earning self-employed, private sector employees and senior civil servants. These will now have to reconsider their pension planning. Those with larger accrued pensions will be most immediately impacted, but many others may be affected over the longer term if this cap is not indexed.

A surprise temporary measure that the Minister introduced today is the ability for individuals who have built up pension funds through Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) to have early access.. Whilst not fundamentally changing the pension landscape, this limited measure may be of value to those who have accumulated significant AVCs in the past and need access to additional funds now.

Following the controversy around large bank pensions in the run up to the budget, it is unsurprising that Minister Noonan has increased the 4% USC rate applicable for those over age 70, to 7% if their income is in excess of €60,000pa. However, this measure will have no immediate effect on many of the former bankers subject to recent commentary as they already pay USC at the rate of 7% due to being under age 70.

Danske Bank Markets

Commenting, Owen Callan, Senior Fixed Income Strategist at Danske Bank Markets said: “While Budget 2013 encompasses reductions equivalent to 2.1% of GDP, the reality is that it is far smaller in scale than previous years. The Irish Government has to date implemented severe rebalancing, equivalent to €25.3 billion in combined fiscal adjustments or approximately 15.5% of GDP. This is the biggest adjustment in the Eurozone, with the exception of Greece. That there has not been a total collapse in economic activity during this period is testament to the strength and flexibility inherent within the Irish economy.

Overall, the markets should be impressed to see the Irish Government remaining so firmly committed to the Troika programme, continuing to adopt measures, that while politically divisive and socially unpopular, many other countries have thus far refused to countenance.”

IBEC

Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam said: "Today's Budget is unlikely to entice consumers back into stores. The increase in alcohol excise may drive consumers north of the border again as the price of beer, wine and spirits rises. The increase in tobacco excise, although smaller than last year's, will only further encourage criminal elements to supply illicit cigarettes on the black market. The decision to freeze VAT is welcome as is the decision to freeze excise duty on fuel.

Retail Ireland chairman and Topaz Energy retail director Frank Gleeson said: "As a practicing retailer, I know how difficult things on the ground are for shop owners. The fuel rebate for hauliers is very welcome, as is the decision to allow for the early release of a portion of Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) for private pensions. This could help stimulate the domestic economy and is an issue Retail Ireland has campaigned on this year.

"I am also delighted to hear from Minister Howlin that this may be the final year that the Budget will be announced just as the Christmas shopping season starts. Consumers need clarity much earlier in the year to plan their spending. Ministers should resolve to hold next year's Budget well in advance of December."

IBEC said taking a significant amount of money out of the economy will have a negative impact on economic activity, but the decision not to significantly increase employment costs was sensible. The group welcomed specific new measures designed to tackle unemployment, increase lending to SMEs and allow for early access to AVC pension contributions.

IBEC director general Danny McCoy said: "Broadening the tax base and focusing on cutting expenditure means that the direct impact on jobs has been minimised. However, abolishing the employer redundancy rebate will make it more difficult for companies to make the changes needed to stay afloat and restructure. The decision not to introduce a statutory sick pay scheme is welcome, as it would have pushed struggling firms out of business and cost jobs.

IBEC welcomed the specific measures designed to tackle unemployment, the new SME tax reform plan and investment fund, and more streamlined supports to help businesses take on new staff. The move to allow early access to AVC pension contributions, which IBEC proposed, will put more money into the economy and help support domestic demand.

"The last year has seen Irish economic fortunes improve and 85% of the planned fiscal adjust has now taken place. If we can get growth back into the economy, future budgets will be a lot easier," concluded McCoy.

Cars
In his budget speech today, Minister Michael Noonan confirmed an overhaul of the road tax regime. The number of CO2 bands which determine the rate of road tax for a vehicle has been increased from seven to twelve.


Commenting on the changes Motorcheck.ie co-founder Shane Teskey said "Given the relatively small increase applied to the less polluting cars I believe we can now expect car manufacturers to work even harder at bringing their key models in at lower CO2 rates. Today's market has just over X% of the range under 120g/km - a figure which will likely increase following the revised rates."
 
Band A which is the most popular tax band in Ireland and accounts for 53% of total sales this year has been split into five sub-divisions meaning the rate of tax will increase from €10 to €40 depending on the CO2 output of the car.
 
Band B, the second most popular band accounting for 38% of sales has been split into two sub-divisions. The increase here will be either €45 or €55 per annum again depending on the CO2 rate of your car.

NEW TAX RATES

 
Tax Band Emmissions New Tax Rate Difference
A0 0 €120 -€40
A1 1 - 80 €170 €10
A2 81 - 100 €180 €20
A3 101 - 110 €190 €30
A4 111 - 120 €200 €40
B1 121 - 130 €270 €45
B2 131 - 140 €280 €55
C 141 - 155 €390 €60
D 156 - 170 €570 €89
E 171 - 190 €750 €73
F 191 - 225 €1,200 €71
G <225 €2,350 €92


HOW THE CURRENT MARKET LOOKS

Today there are 3,810 new cars available in the Irish market. The table below demonstrates the number of cars available in each new band.


 
Tax Band Cars Available %
A0 6 0%
A1 0 0%
A2 140 4%
A3 216 6%
A4 666 17%
B1 478 13%
B2 671 18%
C 628 16%
D 471 12%
E 211 6%
F 205 5%
G 118 3%
Total 3810 100%

 

Irish Budget 2013 Page

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